Atlas plugged: Facebook hooks ads to profiles, smears 'em over the web

Slapping posters all over the internet, Google? Two can play at that game, says Zuck

Facebook has relaunched its Atlas advertising network to take on ad-slinger-in-chief Google.

The social network said its revamped platform will allow companies to monitor how their ads are turning – or not turning – into actual sales across devices. Normally, Facebook tracks logged-in people across the web by detecting when and where they are served Like buttons on pages (and similar "beacons"), notes down the sort of sites they look at, and serves adverts relating to their browser history on and in its apps.

Atlas takes this one step further: it will serve relevant ads to you whenever you are, not just on Facebook. A website can use Atlas to serve ads to people, and advertisers can place adverts through it, knowing they'll end up at the right person. If you visit a lot of cycling forums, and like cycling stuff on FB, imagine the ads for things you'll be served on other sites: helmets, spandex, frames, and so on.

Instagram's ad network and Omnicron are among the first networks to carry Atlas ads. The policy is all there in the T&Cs:

When we partner with advertisers and publishers, we sometimes target ads or perform statistical analysis according to certain general interest categories or demographic segments that we have inferred based on:

a) the pages you view and links you click when using websites and services belonging to our advertising partners,

b) the search terms you enter when using internet search services,

c) characteristics of the contacts you most frequently interact with through communications or social networking services,

d) demographic or interest data, including any you may have provided when creating an account with one of our affiliates or partners (e.g. age, ZIP or postal code, gender),

e) contextual information associated with your activities on partner websites;

f) a general geographic location derived from your IP address, and/or

g) demographic or interest data acquired from partners and other companies (such as the population or other characteristics of the area where you live).

Atlas also reckons its network – which operates across loads of sites, not just Facebook – will be able to more accurately measure how ad clicks and views are being targeted to users and converted to sales.

"Atlas delivers people-based marketing, helping marketers reach real people across devices, platforms and publishers," said Atlas head Erik Johnson.

"By doing this, marketers can easily solve the cross-device problem through targeting, serving and measuring across devices."

The Atlas platform will look to draw business away from Google's DoubleClick ad management platform. The Chocolate Factory reported that its network of advertising partners banked $3.42bn in revenue in the past quarter alone.

What this will mean to users already weary of Facebook's tracking and targeted ad policies, however, remains to be seen. We're not sure linking browsing to profiles – then selling that data off – will do much for confidence in the social network.

Facebook acquired Atlas from Microsoft in the spring of 2013, with designs on turning the platform into a multi-channel advertising management and metrics service, a rollout which the company is now touting.

Prior to the acquisition by the House of Zuck, Atlas was part of the aQuantive Suite that Microsoft acquired for $6.2bn in a failed acquisition that culminated in the piecemeal sell-off of Atlas and other properties. ®

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